If you are looking for biographical information, the first and easiest place to start is by conducting a "Person Search" in the TBRC website. Another useful source is an unpublished list of biographical references, compiled by Dan Martin. This includes personal names from several of the texts below. Other online resources include "Who Was Who in Tibet?" compiled by the Pitt Rivers Museum.
TREASURY OF LIVES
General Editor: Alexander Gardner
An illustrated website of biographies of religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism. Each biography is linked with the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) and Himalayan Art Resources (HAR). Independent scholars, professors, and graduate students, including Dan Martin, Cyrus Stearns, Sarah Jacoby, Ron Garry, and Gyurme Dorje, wrote the biographies and essays now on the site. Gene Smith and Jeff Watt have been invaluable advisors for the site at all stages. The website is a project of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. Contributions to this collaborative effort are welcome.
The Treasury website is designed to associate each biography with five categories: tradition, community, historical period, geography, and natural landmark. Traditions are broadly conceived as having either institutional or doctrinal independence. Community includes both monastic institutions and clan structures. Geography includes both “traditional” and contemporary organizations of Tibetan space: one can browse via the Tibetan categories of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo, within which are further divisions, or by contemporary provinces, prefectures, and counties. The category of "Natural Landmarks" includes mountains, lakes, and caves with which religious figures are associated. All of these categories – known as “facets” in the terminology of the web – can be combined with each others to optimize browsing, so that user might, for example, browse for 13th century Kagyu lamas who were associated with Kailash, expand it to include Sakya, or narrow it to exclude all but Drigung Kagyu.
The Treasury uses both Extended Wylie and the phonetic system created for the Rubin Museum of Art: no diacritics, no umlauts, no acute accents. The site anticipates multiple phonetic rendering of names, acknowledging the lack of a single authoritative system, particularly useful for those times when the proper Wylie spelling is not known. Searches for Phagmodrupa or Phakmodrupa will both be directed to Pagmodrupa. The Treasury database is borrowed from the Person records of TBRC, and the goal is to provide a biography of every known Tibetan religious figure, excluding those still living. Comments by Alexander Gardner.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, MEMOIRS, OR REPORTS OF LIFE IN TIBET (Columbia University)
A list of nearly one hundred English-language autobiographical writings on life in Tibet, compiled by Professor Gray Tuttle for his 20th Century Tibetan History course. Many entries include summaries, abstracts, reviews, or other notes, contributed by students over the years. If you notice that an auto-biographical work in English is not included in this list, please email email@example.com.
General Biographical Resources
For compilations in book-format, see the following:
- Dpal brtsegs Bod yig dpe rnying zhib 'jug khang, ed. Bod kyi lo rgyus rnam thar phyogs bsgrigs bzhugs so. Xining: Mtsho sngon mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2010- Collection of Tibetan religious and political histories
- Wilkinson, Endymion. Chinese History: A Manual, Revised and Enlarged. Cambridge: Harvard-Yenching Institute, 2000, pp. 94-130 (Han people); 707-720 (Non-Han Peoples).
- Wang Gui. Bod rigs kyi rus ming dpyad pa = Zangzu renming yanjiu. [Beijing]: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang. 1991.
Bilingual concordance of Tibetan personal and family names and Chinese character equivalents organized thus:
1. personal names listed according to Tibetan alphabet, pp. 81-140; this is indexed by a) Chinese character stroke number, pp. 141-154; b) by Pinyin pronunciation, organized according to English alphabet, pp. 155-160; c) by English phonetic transcription, pp. 161-163;
2. historical Central Tibetan nobility's family names, pp. 167-190;
3. Local rulers (tusi), myriarchs, chiliarchs, tribal/clan leaders, family names, pp. 191-214 (listing area that each family ruled);
4. important incarnation lamas' names, pp. 215-219 (listing area associated with each incarnation);
Sections 1-4 are also indexed by a) Chinese character stroke number, pp. 221-227; b) by Pinyin pronunciation, organized according to English alphabet, pp. 228-235;
5. final section lists titles of government and monastic officials as well as academic degrees, pp. 239-254; also indexed by a) Chinese character stroke number, pp. 265-266; b) by Pinyin pronunciation, organized according to English alphabet, pp. 257-259.
- Guansheng Chen; Caidan An. Chang jian Zang yu ren ming di ming ci dian = Dictionary of common Tibetan personal and place names. Beijing: Wai wen chu ban she, 2004.
- Bod skad kyi mi'i ming bod rgya shan sbyar=Zangyu renming yin yi (Zang han duizhao). Xining: 2006.
Tibetan and Chinese index for family and personal names.
- For titles, often included as part of names, see: Tarab Tulku, "A Brief History of Tibetan Academic Degrees in Buddhist Philosophy," NIAS Reports, No. 43 (2000).
Largely focused on Bka' gdams/Dge lugs degrees.
- Dbang 'dus tshe ring & 'Phrin las rgya mtsho. Bod kyi sgra sgyur lo rgyus dang lo tsA ba rim byon gyi mdzad rnam gsal ba'i me long = Zang zu fan yi shi ji li dai yi shi zhuan lue ming jian. Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2001.
Translators, who probably all predate the modern period.
- Mkhas dbang Tshe tan zhabs drung gi dpyad rtsom mkha bsdus; 'Jigs med chos 'phags kyis bsgrigs. Bod kyi lo tsA ba rim byon gyi bsgyur tshul skor. Lanzhou: Kan su'u mi rigs dpe skrun Khang, 1994.
First published in Mtsho sngon slob gso, 1985-1.
- Bod dang/ Bar khams/ Rgya sog bcas kyi bla sprul rnams kyi skye phreng deb gzhung. In Bod kyi gal che'i lo rgyus yig cha bdams bsgrigs [Xizang zhong yao li shi zi liao xuan bian]. Ed. by Tshe brtan phun tshogs, Chab spel & Mi 'gyur rdo rje. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1991 [1814/1820].
Part V, p. 281-369. Genealogies of incarnations of [Central] Tibet, Khams, & Sinified Mongols [rgya sog seems to means Amdo] lamas (pp. 368-369); See Martin #588, p. 215: "compiled for the official use of the Manchu Amban in 1814, with additions made in 1820. See Dan Martin's searchable list of this material.
- Dge shes chos grags, Ldong ka tshang; Skal bzang sgrol ma, Ldong ka tshang; Bsod nams lha mo, Ldong ka tshang. Bod kyi gdung rus zhib 'jug. Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2001.
Fascinating treatment of Tibetan history by attending to clan names throughout history. Most of the book is introductions to and lists of the key players (not just prominent laymen but also religious figures, a virtual who's who) in Tibetan history by period (from pre-history, to Tibetan imperial period, and so on up to the Ganden Podrang period and the present: this last section is a rare resource for information on contemporary Tibetan intellectuals). Finally, there is an alphabetical list of clan names.
- Khetsun Sangpo, ed. Biographical dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Bod du sgrub brgyad shing rta mched brgyad las. 12 Vols. Dharamsala, H. P., Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1973.
Organized by sectarian divisions (Indian teachers, Rnying ma, etc.)
- Grags pa 'byung gnas, Ko zhul; Blo bzang mkhas grub, Rgyal ba, eds. Gangs can mkhas grub rim byon ming mdzod. Lanzhou: Kan su'u Mi rigs Dpe skrun khang, 1992.
Dictionary of biographical sketches of prominent Tibetan scholars, philosophers, saints, etc. up to the 1950's. Sorted alphabetically, no index, short entries.
- Don rdor, and Bstan 'dzin chos grags. Gangs ljongs lo rgyus thog gi grags can mi sna. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1993.
Biographical reference work up to the time of the 13th Dalai Lama (d.1933) arranged chronologically according to periods in Tibetan history. Includes about 700 biographies, although the Table of contents only lists the most prominent in each of the historic periods.
- Mgon po, Mi nyag. Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus bdud rtsi'i thigs phreng. Vol. 1. Pe cin: Krung go'i Bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang: Mtsho sngon Zhing chen Zhin-hwa dpe tshon khang gis bkram. 1996.
Biographies of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, sorted chronologically by individuals.
- Ye shes rdo rje, et al. Gangs can mkhas dbang rim byon gyi rnam thar mdor bsdus bdud rtsi'i thigs phreng. Vol. 2. Pe cin: Krung go'i Bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang, 2000.
- Mi rigs dpe mdzod khang, ed. Bod gangs chen gyi grub mtha' ris med kyi mkhas dbang brgya dang brgyad cu lhag gi gsung 'bum so so'i dkar chag phyogs gcig du bsgrigs pa shes bya'i gter mdzod. Zangwen dianji mulu. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 3 vols. 1984-1997.
Each Collected works entry is followed by a brief biography of the author in Tibetan and Chinese.
- Byams pa phrin las. Gangs ljongs gso rig bstan pa'i nyin byed rim byon gyi rnam thar phyogs bsgrigs (Biographical dictionary of Tibetan medical teachers).Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2000.
- Lhag pa tshe ring, and Ngag dbang chos grags, eds. Gsung 'bum dkar chag; full title: Zhwa ser bstan pa'i sgron me Rje Tsong kha pa chen pos gtsos skyes chen dam pa rim byung gi gsung 'bum dkar chag phyogs gcig tu bsgrigs pa'i dri med zla shel gtsang ma'i me long. Lhasa: Bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1990.
List of collected works of famous Gelukpa figures (Tibetan & Mongol) up to the modern era, followed by a brief biography of the author in Tibetan and Chinese.
- Lokesh Chandra. Materials for a history of Tibetan literature. Sata-pitaka series. Indo-Asian literatures, v. 28-30. New Delhi, [International Academy of Indian Culture] 1963.
Contains biographical information on authors covered. (MHTL in TBRC)
- Zeng Guojing and Guo Weibing. Lidai Zangzu mingren zhuan [Biographies of Famous Tibetans in Successive Dynasties]. Lhasa: Xizang renmin chubanshe, 1996.
- Yu Lingbo. Zhongguo jinxiandai Fojiao renwu zhi [Records of Chinese Contemporary Buddhist Figures]. Beijing: Zongjiao wenhua chubanshe, 1995.
Mostly Chinese figures, including some who studied Tibetan Buddhism, and a few lamas.
- Sichuan sheng difang zhi bianji weiyuanhui, Sheng zhi renwu zhi bianji and Ren Yimin, eds. Sichuan jin xiandai renwu zhuan (Biographies of Sichuan’s Contemporary Figures). Ed. by Sichuan sheng difang zhi ziliao congshu. Vol. 1. Chengdu: Sichuan sheng shehui kexue yuan chubanshe, 1985.
Includes some Tibetans.
- Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje ; translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje in colaboration with Matthew Kapstein. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism : its fundamentals and history. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991.
- Jam dbyangs rdo rje, Smyo shul Mkhan po; Richard Barron. A marvelous garland of rare gems:biographies of masters of awareness in the Dzogchen lineage: a spiritual history of the teachings on Natural Great Perfection. Junction City, CA : Padma Pub, 2005.
- Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles: the Longchen Nyingthig lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Shambhala, 1996.
Lists many teachers from E. Tibet.
- Biographical Materials about Bonpo Masters: A collection of rare Bonpo biographical sketches calligraphed from manuscripts from Nepal and Tibet at the Tibetan Bonpo Monastic Centre, Dolanji. Dolanji, India: Lopon Tenzin Namdak, Tibetan Bonpo Monastic Centre, 1981.
- Tsering, Tashi, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Tibetan Women. 10 vols. Dharamsala: Amnye Machen Institute, forthcoming (?).
- Ya, Hanzhang. The Biographies of the Dalai Lamas. Translated by Wang Wenjiong. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1991.
- ———. Biographies of the Tibetan Spiritual Leaders: Panchen Erdenis. Translated by Chen Guansheng and Li Peizhu. Beijing: Foreign Language Press, 1994.
- Also on the Dalai and Panchen Lamas: Lungta has two issues, on the biographies of the Panchen and Dalai Lamas; see also: Martin Brauen's edited volume on the Dalai Lamas.
- Petech, Luciano. Aristocracy and Government in Tibet, 1728-1959. 1973.
His work on the Lhasa nobility is exceptional in paying attention to non-religious figures.
- L Carrington Goodrich; Zhaoying Fang. Dictionary of Ming biography, 1368-1644. New York : Columbia University Press, 1976. Includes Karmapa V (see: Helima).
- Arthur William Hummel. Eminent Chinese of the Ch`ing period (1644-1912). 2 vols. Washington : U.S. G.P.O. 1943-1944, or Taipei, Cheng Wen Pub. House, 1972, 2 vols. in 1.
Includes biographies of Dalai & Panchen Lamas, as well as many dynastic officials and family members who dealt with Tibet and Tibetans.
- Cheng, Joseph K. H., Richard C. Howard, ed. and Howard L. Boorman, ed. 1967-1971, 1979. Biographical dictionary of Republican China. 5 vols.
Over 600 biographies. Includes biographies of Dalai, Panchen and Nor lha Lamas, as well as many militarists who patronized Tibetan Buddhists.
- Charles O Hucker. A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China. Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1985.
Biographies by Subject
In addition to the more general biographies listed above, one can also find biographies of Tibetans who specialized in certain fields. A preliminary list of these resources is presented here.
- MUSIC. Biographies of famous Tibetan singers and composers can be found in the Oxford Music Online database.
- MODERN TIBETAN LITERATURE. Biographies of nearly 300 modern Tibetan writers are provided in this book: Deṅ rabs Bod kyi rtsom pa poʼi lo rgyus daṅ brtsams chos dkar chag (2012).
- RINPOCHES. "A List of Recognized Incarnations or Tulkus." This list, input by Dan Martin, Jerusalem, is based on a text in Bod kyi gal che'i lo rgyus yig cha bdams bsgrigs (Lhasa 1991), pp. 281-369. It is helpful for searching references to the names of particular Tibetan reincarnate lamas or tulkus.